Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United.
Some, myself included, insist that this isn't a strong all-round United team, but the facts and results appear to prove us wrong.
Just look at the facts, I'm sure I read that no Prem team has accumulated as many points at this stage of a season and we know that there have been some outstanding teams in the last twenty off years. Add to that a recent record of nine wins and a draw in their last ten Premiership games and despite many believing that United don't have the one - eleven strength of previous eras, they still definitely have enough quality in key areas to be better than their rivals. Perhaps that is as much about those rivals suffering their own troubles and inconsistencies, that United being that much better, but a table doesn't usually lie and even if they are not the best United side ever seen, they seem to be too strong when compared with the best of the rest in the domestic league and were also comfortable in their CL group, despite taking their foot off the game in the final games when qualification was assured. To me, in terms of squad strength, United are no better than City or Chelsea, but what they have and always have had is unity and togetherness for the the goal, Spurs appear to be strong here, however United have the long term belief, based on proven success, whilst we don't.
What seems obvious is that United have plenty of goals in them. Easily the Prems leading scorers and with the likes of RVP and his striking partners, this is a team that isn't just capable of hammering a weak and hapless opposition, but is one that is devastating in and around any opposing area. The problem appears however to be at their own conceding goals that take something away from their gloss of being the biggest scorers, with only WBA conceding more of the ten teams below them. 56 scored in 22 games in outstanding, however 29 conceded is poor for their position and perhaps makes then slightly vulnerable should their strikers forget their shooting boots, just for once.
Spurs of course have an almost unique opportunity to do a league double over United and that feat would be a Premiership first with the last being in 1989/90. Spurs haven't even beaten United at home since May 2001, but is this a Tottenham side that is stronger, more confident and tactically aware than many that walked out against United and even just having that knowledge of beating them at Old Trafford for the first time in 23 years, might be something to add real belief, but in saying that few have that iron belief and will for revenge like Fergie and United, so Spurs will probably have to again hit them hard and very quickly and hope that United leave themselves too much to do, as they did on the 29th of September.
Still without Kaboul and Gallas, Tottenham have the devastating blow of losing Sandro for the remainder of the season, though Scott Parker is more than an able deputy and I feel he will add experience and leadership and perhaps it will be an opportunity for Mousa Dembele to take on a greater role in driving forward, something I feel he hasn't done as often or effectively since returning from injury. The loss of Emmanuel Adebayor may well actually work in our favour as the probable inclusion of Clint Dempsey to support Jermain Defoe and drop back into the midfield, might add strength and brain over brawn quality in a game where we will have to be at our very best.
United have their own problems, in losing Jonny Evans, Ashley Young and Darren Fletcher from their squad, which probably mean we have the Ferdinand and Vidic combination in the heart of their defence, big on experience, but slower on pace. Something to think about? In the midfield, I have often felt they are lacking something, but in former Spur, Michael Carrick, they have a player in superb form, whilst I have also been very impressed with Anderson recently, and Scholes was superb in the game at OT. There is a potential that Cleverley and Carrick will be the starting pair and though both are very good players, I think we have the quality to deal with them, whilst Scholes seems to be running out of steam over a hard 90 minutes. The width will probably come from the under-rated Valencia and the brilliantly erratic Nani. I rate Valencia as an excellent player and his work-rate and defensive work is immense, much like Aaron Lennon does for us, however Nani is someone who doesn't seem to share that work ethic, but whichever Kyle starts, I feel they will have to be n their defensive guard
For me, I believe Spurs should revert to a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 formation with Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, BAE, Parker, Dembele, Lennon, Bale, Dempsey and Defoe as our eleven. Caulker for his extra pace was in my thoughts, but Dawson's experience edges it for me, whilst Walker or Naughton is a very close call at the moment. What is very much needed is for a strong and organised performance, whoever pulls on the shirt and hopefully we have learned from our sitting back in the away game. Though defeated last weekend, Liverpool perhaps suffered for a lack of attacking ambition and in the final fifteen minutes could have easily got a point or even more. Saying attack is easier said than done of course as the likes of Van Persie only need half a chance to score, but I do believe if we play too deep we will be picked off and I would rather lose and feel we gave it our all that be frustrated at what might have been. This will be a total contract to last weeks parking of the bus and though United will look to create far more and dominate possession, it also represents an opportunity to play our own game and I have a feeling that there could be plenty of goals once again and as long as we score one more I would happily take any score in an enjoyable game in prospect...